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Vulvodynia--There is Hope

Updated on January 11, 2012

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A Pain in the ....

For centuries, women have suffered needlessly. In our modern age, with our abundant technology, research, and more widespread access to healthcare, one would think this suffering would remain in the past. Not so. Conditions like vulvodynia and the often accompanying vulvar vestibulitis cause women tremendous pain, and all too often doctors are either stumped by how to treat them, or deny the existence of a woman's suffering without clear cut symptoms.

Chronic burning, pain, itching, redness, and irritation in the vulvar region without a documented cause (STD, BV, trichomoniasis, or allergy) are defined as vulvodynia and/or vulvar vestibulitis.

Possible Causes of Vulvodynia

At this time, there's no definitive answer on what causes vulvodynia. Allopaths and naturopaths often disagree on origins and treatment options.

Theories on what causes vulvodynia include:

  • Nerve injury or irritation
  • Abnormal response in vulvar cells to an infection or trauma
  • Genetic factors that predispose the vulva to respoding poorly to inflammation
  • Hypersensitivity to yeast infections (candidiasis)
  • Muscle spasms
  • Allergies or irritation to chemicals or other substances
  • Hormonal changes
  • History of sexual abuse
  • Frequent antibiotic use

I'm most inclined, personally, to agree with sensitivity to yeast (not all yeast strains will show up on cultures or produce the typical cottage cheese variety of vaginal discharge), hormonal influence, and allergies. Frequent antibiotic use contributes to proliferation of yeast, so the two can go hand in hand. Removing allergy and yeast causing foods from one's diet can help symptoms of vulvodynia. Food allergies and systemic candidiasis can cause widespread body inflammation, so it stands to reason that if these two factors are removed, the body is going to undergo a considerable degree of healing.


"How do you know if you have candida? This saliva test is a good indicator of candida and you can do it yourself!" I found this test at It's simple to do and free. I know it's not a foolproof method, and I would prefer have a lab check one's saliva or blood sample for yeast, however, if finances are a concern (and when aren't they?) or your doctor is less than cooperative with ordering tests to check for yeast without definitive symptoms other than vulvovaginal pain, give the test at right a try. If your test shows yeast or your feel yeast in contributing to your vulvodynia (and I feel that most of us would benefit from trying to eradicate yeast in our bodies), there are a few ways to clear it from our systems and allow our bodies to heal. Caprylic acid supplements, pau d'arco tea, and garlic are all potent yeast killers. It's important to note that when one's body's yeast dies off, one will initially feel unwell. This is known as a Herxheimer reaction. Yeast is a living organism, and our bodies are feel the toxis created as these organisms die. This feeling is temporary. A diet rich in vegetables and water will help ease the discomfort. It is crucial to abstain from sugar, dairy, and refined carbohydrates to eliminate --and not continue to feed--your yeast.

Hormonal Help

Topical estrogen cream--whether estradiol or estriol (although estriol is much, much weaker)--applied to the labia minora and vaginal orifice can provide relief for vulvodynia in as little as two weeks. The lowest dose should be used and only increased if symptoms do not abate. Even though relief from pain is the ultimate goal, patience (while difficult) is key. The estrogen found in the Pill called ethinyl estradiol does not have the same benefits as bioidentical estrogen, and also has a myriad of side effects. When in doubt, go natural. Sadly, there is no instantaneous hormone restoration. It, personally, took me about three weeks of daily use before pain abated. I was also careful to avoid wheat and dairy, which I know my body is sensitive to. I used small amounts (.6 mg) of bioidentical estradiol cream (prescribed by my hormone restoration specialist). I have also found that adding one cupful of apple cider vinegar to a full bath can help, but only after about a week or two of estrogen use. ACV normalizes vaginal flora and soothes irritated vaginal tissue. Any other type of vinegar can contribute to yeast proliferation.

Perimenopause and menopause can make the condition worse, as this when hormone levels decline. However, young women are also at risk. I first noticed pain when I was only 19. My ovarian output of hormones has always been abnormally low. Modern diet and environmental, as well as genetic influences, can predispose you to low ovarian hormone output. This results in a multitude of problems, two of which are vulvodynia and vulvar vestibulitis. If you are suffering, ask to have your hormone levels checked at your next ob-gyn visit, and ask for a copy of the results. Mid-luteal (around day 21 of your cycle) estradiol levels below 90 and mid-luteal progesterone levels below 10 indicate your body is not functioning at optimum levels. If your doctor won't test your hormones, you can test your own levels through ZRT labs online ( The company will send you blood and/or saliva collection kits (very easy to use) and you can choose what you want tested, depending upon your budget. I have used them many times, and they are very reliable. The ZRT physician's report, sent to you with your results, explains what they results indicate and what possible steps you can take to correct them.

I wish you good luck and good health.


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    • Melanie Gladney profile image

      Melanie Gladney 2 years ago from Pennsylvania

      No, mine was the result of low estrogen which resolved after estrogen supplementation. Low estrogen/high progesterone can contribute to yeast growth, for ex., in pregnancy when progesterone levels are high.

    • profile image

      Kep 2 years ago

      Thanks for your reply. Did your Vulvodynia being after chronic yeast infections? Did you have a history of antibiotic use? I'm trying to put the puzzle pieces together for my own case. I had some relief with long term antifungals but then had to take antibiotics twice in the last year for bacterial infections and the pain is now the worst it's ever been. I am 40 and have low estrogen.

    • Melanie Gladney profile image

      Melanie Gladney 2 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Shkehar...allopathic physicians often will not see the "science" in testing for food sensitivities. I would try a complete elimination diet of all sensitive foods --see Elson Haas' book about False Fat in which he identifies trigger foods and how to do an elimination diet. You can only tell for certain what are trigger foods for your child if you give him a clean diet and then reintroduce allergens one at a time. If he has a tantrum, rash, etc., there's an extremely high possibility it has been caused by whatever food has been re-introduced into his diet. To may ask whatever you like and I will do my best to get back to you in a timely manner. I haven't been on HubPages in awhile, but if you need advice, I will try to assist you. As for my age, I am 43, and I have not found any increased yeast on estrogen supplementation. Eliminating allergenic foods and supplementing with probiotics helps. Dairy and wheat can both contribute to yeast proliferation.

    • profile image

      Kep 2 years ago

      Hello, I posted 8 months ago the comment above and am wondering if I can ask you some specific vulvodynia questions. I've been suffering for 3 years.

    • profile image

      Shekhar 3 years ago

      he didn't believe that the ezcmea and behavioral issues are due to food allergies: I disagree, which is why I'm pushing for more testing.We eliminated some things from his diet for a time and then reintroduced them, and noted the reactions. It's hard to do this, though, because I can't always be sure just what he's reacting to. So, because I know that eczema can be aggravated by wheat/gluten and dairy, I try to limit those foods as much as I can (though sometimes he gets something accidentally at church from folks not paying attention). I know he reacts strongly to artificial colors and chemical salts and sweeteners, so we do what we can to avoid processed stuff all together. I'm POSITIVE that he reacts to corn, though: last time I gave him some, he had horrible, violent tantrums, hit his head on the floor, screamed (not high-pitched keening, just tantrum-y screaming). That went on for about two days, then it was like a switch was flipped in his brain and he was back to his happy, mellow, affectionate self.So I'm 100% certain there are multiple food sensitivities, but I'm having trouble pin-pointing them all, and the first allergist wasn't much of a help, IMO.I've talked to our Dr. about getting him tested for autism mostly due to the food reactions, but also his speech was a little delayed and she didn't think it was necessary. A friend recommended I check into sensory-integration techniques to help him through tantrums, but he only gets really violent when he's had a suspect food: otherwise, it's more like he has these I'm not getting my way whiny tantrums that last less than 2 minutes. It used to be that he'd have 15-45 minute long violent screaming fits 5-6 times a day or more, depending on what we ate . . . until I started taking out potential allergens.So, I guess that's why I was wondering about the Vitamin K shot, and the possibility of injury from any chemicals contained in that shot. As I'd mentioned he is also very sensitive to chemical food additives. MSG makes us all ill headaches, diarrhea and once he was given frozen yogurt sweetened with Splenda (without my knowledge or permission). That was the only new' food he'd had for a while, and he ended up with a bumpy, flesh-colored rash that started on his trunk and spread outward over his arms/legs, hands/feet, and face over about 4 days. After the rash he peeled like crazy for a few more days. Dr said, basically, that kids get rashes sometimes. Keep him clean, give him some Benadryl, call us if he gets worse. :-/ My daughter got a sick headache from the same frozen yogurt, but no rash.So, like I said, I KNOW that we have multiple food issues. But, since he's not testing positive for allergies (so far), and doesn't have severe enough behavior issues that anyone wants to test him for any spectrum disorders, I'm sort of stuck. Because I know he's extremely sensitive to chemicals I really wonder if he was injured by that Vit K shot, but I'm not really sure where to look for more information. All the docs we've been to except our family practice GP have told me that there's nothing wrong. But you know how your mommy-senses kick in, and you just have this feeling? If he was perfectly healthy with no food allergies, why all these reactions to foods?

    • profile image

      Katy 3 years ago

      Did you find the use of estrogen increased yeast? I'm concerned about this. Also, do you mind me asking your age? I'm omly 39 but am wondering if I'm in peri menopause

      Thank you

    • Melanie Gladney profile image

      Melanie Gladney 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      The cream was prescribed by a naturopathic doctor in my area. It's an estradiol cream made in our local compounding pharmacy. You may also find relief with Estrace cream (prescription only) or E3 cream (estriol) which you can purchase online.

    • profile image

      Muirhead 4 years ago

      I have most of these conditions you talk about. What sort of bioidentical

      estrogen cream did you use? Thank you for writing about it.


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